Friday, 11 May 2012

Why Obama's views on Gay Marriage are Important

The last day or so I have born witness to a kerfuffle online in response the the US President's comments on one of the largest civil rights issues of modern times, that of gay people having the right to marry.

It seems unsurprising that it was the first black President who happened to be a Democrat who became the first serving US President to come out in favour of the issue. It was the timing that shocked me though. In the UK we are having the same debate, but support for gay marriage is high with a Telegraph poll recently showing public support for gay marriage at 78%. Here politicians are reacting in line with the public mood, but Obama has stuck his neck out on an issue that still cuts a fissure through American society. This is surprising in the run up to an election as well as the fact that two groups on whose vote the incumbent President relies, blacks and hispanics, are amongst the most sceptical about the issue.

It's is, however, worth mentioning that a few of Obama's cabinet, including Vice-President Biden, had started the ball rolling a week or so before. It is unclear as to whether their announcements were planned or not.

Buy why would I be interested in what the US President thinks on this issue when I'm in a country where I will be able to marry whomever I want by the end of this parliamentary term (fingers crossed)? The fact is this is going to be huge for gay rights internationally. I have seen how the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office have, quite literally, flown the flag for gay rights around the world; it has become common to see the rainbow flag flying above a British embassy or consulate during Pride events in different countries in support of foreign LGBT communities. If the most powerful nation in the world begins to take a similar stance then this could be pivotal for the international gay rights movement. Obama has stated that it should still be up to the states to decide their stance on the issue, which I think is fair despite some criticisms from gay commentators. Gay marriage should be wanted by the people and not force-fed, lest resentment of LGBT people becomes worse. But with this kind of ideology at the top, internationally we can hope that stances will evolve.